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BMW’s 1,250 kg electric car

IEPZIG, Germany ― Four massive wind turbines stand near BMW’s Leipzig plant, whipping up energy to help power the production of the 1 Series vehicles and the i3, the carmaker’s first electric car.

The turbines ― capable of generating 26,000 megawatt hours per year ― are part of BMW’s ambitious i project that aims to build possibly the world’s most sustainable car in the most environment-friendly way.

“Production defines the i3 car,” said Jochen Muller, a corporate communications manager of BMW Group, revealing some of the secrets of the battery-powered i3 hatchback to a group of journalists last week.

Carbon-fiber is the key to the i3 four-door compact, which will start rolling off the assembly line at the plant in the eastern German city late this year.

The finished car will weigh just 1,250 kilograms, including the 230-kilogram battery pack. This means the i3’s agility and range will far advance its heavier rivals such as the Nissan Leaf (1,565 kilograms) and the Renault Fluence or SM3 ZE in Korea (1,605 kilograms).

BMW’s uses lightweight materials to compensate for the extra weight of the battery ― Korea’s Samsung SDI is the exclusive battery supplier ― including carbon fiber-reinforced plastic commonly used in motor racing or supercar manufacturing.

BMW established a joint venture with US carbon specialist SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, and the preformed carbon-fiber mats arrive at the Leipzig factory and each car body consists of nine preformed panels.

The body is assembled entirely by robots ― 160 of them ― using polyurethane glue to mount the panels on a rolling aluminium chassis.

There are no conveyors or welding, as use of carbon fiber eliminates the press shop and the paint shop.
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